This Southern US City Is A Great Destination For A Spooky Halloween Vacation

Mardi Gras is great, but where better to spend Halloween than New Orleans, Louisiana? With its old-world architecture and historic above-ground cemeteries — known as "cities of the dead" — the Big Easy has long been associated with vampires. This includes fictional vampires and role-players, or "lifestylers," fitted with pointy teeth at their local fangsmith.

This is the same city the late Anne Rice once made her home (in the Garden District), and it served as the setting of her most famous novel, "Interview with the Vampire." The tomb of the vampire Lestat (played by Tom Cruise) in the 1994 movie adaptation is said to have been inspired by one in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Even today, the ongoing TV adaptation of Rice's book continues to feature New Orleans landmarks like Jackson Square. Elsewhere in the French Quarter, you can visit the Boutique du Vampyre gift shop or the New Orleans Vampire Cafe. Blood is not on the drink menu, but vampire-themed red wine labels are. (Despite the vampire's aversion to sunlight, the cafe is open during the day, even for Sunday brunch.)

That's not to say vampires have cornered the market on Halloween in New Orleans. In October, both legions of zombies and Halloween parade floats take to the streets, and there are other spooky events going on around town, too. Combined with the city's natural atmosphere, New Orleans is a banner destination for some frightful fun this Halloween season.

The Vampire Ball, Zombie Paintball, and Krewe of Boo

The House of Blues usually hosts the Endless Night Vampire Ball in New Orleans on the last weekend of October. Here, the Venetian masks of Mardi Gras go gothic in a party billed as a cross between a cabaret and a rock concert.

Even before the Vampire Ball, you might see a different breed of undead specimen being chased through the Warehouse District in the morning. The New Orleans Zombie Run is a unique annual race that sees people in zombie makeup trying to outrun zombie hunters on skates for 2 miles. (They're the Big Easy Roller Derby and mean business.) If you'd rather hunt than be hunted, you can board a battle bus and have a Zombie Paintball ride across town in NOLA Motorsports Park. This event, held on select nights in October, loads you up with 150 rounds of ammo and sends you out into an interactive zombie apocalypse.

For a more family-friendly New Orleans Halloween, you can watch the Krewe of Boo parade, which sweeps right through the heart of the French Quarter. Rooted in Mardi Gras-style floats and traditions, the lively sunset parade started as a fundraiser for disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina. It has since become a yearly event on the third Saturday of October, the same day as the New Orleans Zombie Run.

Halloween music and decorations in New Orleans

One of the biggest Halloween weekend events in New Orleans, the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, was temporarily halted during the pandemic. While its future is uncertain, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, so there's always live music on any night.

That includes live concert performances of horror movie soundtracks. This October, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is performing the full score of Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning thriller, "Get Out," for two nights at the Orpheum Theater. One show is on Friday the 13th. Even better might be the Candlelight concert series and its "Haunted Evening of Halloween Classics." These shows will put you in a darkened venue with thousands of candles and let you hear music from movies like "The Exorcist," "Halloween," "Psycho," and "Ghostbusters."

A candlelight concert might go well with one of the city's many ghost tours. Or you can independently tour the stately Garden District and uptown area to see Halloween decorations, as only New Orleans can do them. This is where Buckner Mansion, a filming location for "American Horror Story" and Disney's new "Haunted Mansion" movie, is located. As their nicknames imply, Skeleton House and Ghost Manor are two well-known landmarks that come alive with seasonal decorations. Add places like the Museum of Death and the haunted house attraction, The Mortuary, and there's no shortage of local spots to give New Orleans its own special macabre appeal for Halloween.